Military News

VA Puget Sound opening up for two veteran town halls next week

The VA Puget Sound is holding two town hall forums next week so its top officers can hear directly from veterans in the wake of a scheduling scandal that led to the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in May.

VA Puget Sound Director Michael Murphy plans to open each forum with an update for veterans on patient wait times. Veterans can submit written questions to a panel of VA officials or ask them directly in a live session.

This week, newly appointed VA Secretary Robert McDonald called the agency “too complicated from the veteran’s standpoint.” He has been instructing regional hospital leaders to meet with veterans in different venues.

McDonald told lawmakers that the VA is adopting reforms called for in a VA Inspector General report on common scheduling practices that VA hospitals used to hide delays in patient care. The report focused on Phoenix, which was at the center of allegations that VA schedulers kept “secret waiting lists” of patients they could not see in a timely manner.

The VA Puget Sound cares for more than 90,000 patients each year in a network that includes hospitals in Seattle and Lakewood, as well as some satellite facilities. In 2000, the agency had a patient roll about 54,000.

A preliminary VA Inspector General audit released in June indicated that VA Puget Sound facilities are being scrutinized, but it did not disclose why.

In July, a VA survey released to Congress showed that a third of VA Puget Sound schedulers who responded to the survey said they were instructed by their facility to change information about when patients requested hospital visits.

The town hall meetings will take place:

• Tuesday, Sept. 16 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the American Lake VA Campus auditorium, building 9.

• Wednesday, Sept. 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Southcenter Doubletree, 16500 Southcenter Parkway, Tukwila.